A book to share. Black August: Political Prisoners in Struggle

The excerpt reproduced below in English includes the Introduction of the book and a section of Chapter 1 entitled “The tradition of Black August”.


In commemoration of the Black August tradition that emerged in the 1970s to honor George Jackson and other comrades in the revolutionary movement inside the prisons of California, we extend our solidarity to dozens of political prisoners of the Black Liberation Movement who have been locked up in the prisons of the United States for decades.

In this book, we share the revolutionary spirit of people with tremendous courage and commitment, with amazing histories of struggle in their communities and inside prison walls. These men and women have remained steadfast and unbroken even while enduring the worst kinds of cruel and degrading treatment. Despite the war unleashed against them through the FBI’s counterinsurgency program known as COINTELPRO and the ongoing efforts of the organized police and mass media to erase them from history, it is possible to find reliable information about their cases in some books, films and websites, but nearly all in English.

In 2010, Carolina Saldaña, a reporter for independent media who also works with the collective, Amig@s de Mumia de México, made an effort to spread at least part of this information to a broader public in a series of Spanish language articles. In 2014, these articles — a labor of compilation, translation, contextualization, and composition — were updated and reproduced in a fanzine, which was converted into a book published by Lxs Nadie in August of 2016. At the end of the year, in editorial coordination with SubVersiones, the text was updated and expanded again and we now have this version of Black August: Political prisoners in struggle.

As of 2014, five of the prisoners that we meet in this book have been received with celebrations in their communities upon being released from prison. We are happy to say that after having decades of their lives stolen from them, Maliki Shakur Latine, Albert Woodfox, Sekou Odinga, Gary Tyler, Sekou Kambui y Marshall Eddie Conway have been freed. But there are also deaths that will never be forgiven. Phil Africa, Hugo ‘Yogi’ Pinell, Mondo we Langa and Abdul Majid struggled inside the walls until the end of their days here on earth against a murderous system, which underscores the urgency of the speedy liberation of all the rest of the political prisoners.

Black August, by Kevin Rashid Johnson, Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, Prison Chapter

In 2017, the racist, misogynist and openly fascist Donald Trump promises to crack down on the Black, Latin, immigrant and Muslim communities. We can’t expect anything from those in power except increasingly disastrous prison policies, already taken to their maximum expression by former regimes, especially by William Jefferson Clinton.

From the ground up, on the other hand, movements not seen in decades are making their presence felt. The hunger strikes organized as of 2011 in the prisons of California have been successful in drastically reducing the punishment of solitary confinement, while strikes against slavery in the prisons have been carried on by thousands of captives across the country. We’ve also seen widespread resistance against police terror, the development of movements such as Black Lives Matter, the defense of water taken up by the Sioux at Standing Rock, and one action after another against Trump. We hope to see more radical movements that also struggle for the freedom of all political prisoners and the defeat of the prison system of death and torture, now imported to Mexico and many other countries.

There’s so much to learn from the comrades presented in this volume, and we thank them for their words of inspiration. We hope the material shared about their lives and struggles will be an impetus for today’s generations to follow in their footsteps, that it will call more international attention to their cases and backup efforts to bring them home.

Special thanks for the artwork of Kevin Rashid Johnson, Kiilu Nyasha, MC Xozulu, and the photos of Stephen Shames. We also thank everyone who has offered moral support and help in the production and dissemination of this book.

Hugo Pinell, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Nuh Washington. Art by Kiilu Nyasha.

The Black August tradition

The tradition of Black August began in 1979 to honor George Jackson, Jonathan Jackson, James McClain, William Christmas and Khatari Gaulden, who continued building a movement inside the prisons until he was killed in 1978. Several ex prisoners founded the Black August Organizing Committee, and began to wear black bracelets, do exercise, and engage in fasts to commemorate the days the prisoners were killed, with emphasis on resistance, unity, self-sacrifice and spiritual renovation. They also organized demonstrations outside San Quentin prison to call attention to the reign of State terror experienced inside.

For more than three decades, a special focus has been support for political prisoners who have received sentences of vengeance for their participation in organizations like the Black Panthers (BPP), the Republic of New Africa (RNA), MOVE, the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), and the Black Liberation Army (BLA).

Black August has spread to other parts of the country and the world, with initiatives from Cuba by the comrades in exile Nehanda Abiodun and Assata Shakur, who escaped from a dungeon in the state of New Jersey with the help of her comrade guerrillas in the BLA on November 2, 1979. Also important has been the work of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, MXGM, together with other organizations, poets and artists. For years, many hip hop groups have participated in Black August commemorations to raise funds and spread the word about the cases of the political prisoners.

Free Mumia, by MC Xozulu.

This book, Agosto Negro: Presas y presos politicos en pie de lucha, has been presented in Mexico in more than 20 community, university or occupied spaces, along with Spanish subtitled documentaries on Mumia Abu-Jamal, Assata Shakur, Dhoruba Bin Wahad, Sekou Odinga, Mutulu Shakur, Jalil Muntaqim, Albert Nuh Washington, David Gilbert, Ashanti Alston, George Jackson, ‘the Angola 3,’ ‘the San Francisco 8,’ the Black Panthers, the MOVE Organization, Malcolm X, Oscar Grant, the Attica Rebellion, Black August Hip Hop and COINTELPRO. The book has been reproduced in the South of Chile by Cimarrón Ediciones, both the entire book and single chapters, with creative, handcrafted covers; and has made its way to Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. This May, Agosto Negro was presented at the Cinéteca in Barcelona by Pensaré Cartoneras, Adherentes de la Sexta and Leonard Peltier Solidarity Committee. The Malcolm X Coordinating Committee in Brooklyn and MOVE in Philadelphia have helped get books to some prisoners, ex prisoners and families of prisoners who appear in Agosto Negro.

You can download the Spanish-language book here to read, copy and share. To get a book in print, write to SubVersiones at contacto@subversiones.org or to the author, Carolina, at espirales@riseup.net . To keep up with developments in the cases of the prisoners, consult the sources listed at the end of the book, including the Jericho Movement, Anarchist Black Cross and Freedom Archives.